“Gluten-free” is a term we see often these days on everything from bread and tortillas to pre-made soups and salads. But what is gluten, exactly? And is it really such a bad thing?
Gluten: The Basics
In short, gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, bulgur, rye, barley, couscous, spelt, and semolina. With a long history of inclusion in the human diet, you may begin to wonder why so many of us suddenly seem sensitive to it. Celiac disease – essentially an extreme intolerance to gluten – is the first official sensitivity on record. But really, there are many levels of sensitivity to this widespread ingredient, possibly more common now due to changing gut health, the way we live, and the foods we consume.
Gluten and You
Dr. Ford, a pediatrician in Christchurch, New Zealand and author of The Gluten Syndrome, believes gluten-sensitivity may affect anywhere from 30% – 50% of the world’s population. These individuals’ bodies begin to develop antibodies to gluten, meaning their immune system starts reacting to the protein as if it were an invader.
Classic symptoms of gluten sensitivity can vary widely and include signs like:
- Abdominal pain
- Skin issues
- Brain fog
- Joint aches
- Mild depression
- Bloating, distension, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation (similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
The food industry’s genetic manipulation of grains has led to stronger forms of gluten that are more disease-resistant. Scientists rely on hybridization and genetic selection to develop wheat with stronger gluten and gliadin proteins for more shelf-stable bread products. Today, almost all of our packaged foods or boxed snacks contain these grains, either as a central ingredient or an additive, making processed carbs and grain products a main feature on our plates.
Along with this industry-wide change, many other factors of our modern lifestyles can affect gut health, for example:
- Increased use of herbicides and pesticides in modern industrial farming
- Overuse of antibiotics in humans and the animals we consume
- Long-term use of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) medications that can wear away stomach and intestinal linings
- Anti-acid medications like Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, or Pepcid that can suppress stomach acid necessary for proper digestion and absorption of minerals
Proper nutrition from a balanced diet of whole fruits and vegetables – supplemented with high-quality vitamins and minerals like our Nupeutics Health collection – is one way to battle gluten sensitivity symptoms, fight inflammation that can lead to all sorts of stomach disorders, and keep your gut strong.
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